It’s almost October 31st and everyone around you is excited about Halloween – whether it’s dressing up, going to a party, or trick or treating in your community.
Have you ever considered how integral food or snacks are to an event like Halloween? If you suffer from allergies or intolerances it can be a deeply scary event which goes far beyond witches, zombies and ghosts.
When eating the wrong thing can kill you, it’s simply easier to opt out of any celebration. What do you do if you are simply sick of ‘opting out’ because it’s easier to not bother? What do you do if your own children with allergies or intolerances want to take part? How to you manage the continual worry about keeping your children safe while allowing them to experience an event which many of their friends take for granted?
I think about these dilemmas because I’ve lived with them my whole life. It’s difficult for me to take part in something like Halloween without having a plan around food – because I’m allergic to everything. I can’t eat any kind of nut, sesame, coconut and Halloween is a celebration which is rife with allergens – nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soy to name a few.
Halloween is a particular challenge for me because I absolutely love it as a celebration and always have.
As a child, I would go trick or treating with my sister and brother, gather our goodies – and then not be able to touch any of them until my mum had gone through all of them, checking the ingredients to ensure the ‘treats’ were safe for me to eat. When you are an excited child, surrounded by treats and dressed up in your witch’s outfit, it’s very difficult to come down from that high and wait to eat your ‘treats’. Could you do that with your children?
Even today as an adult I celebrate Halloween, surrounded by friends and I’ve got five simple rules I live by to ensure it’s a safe and enjoyable experience for someone like me:
- I’m vocal – I make sure I’m clear about my allergies and intolerances which are now well known in my community. This means over time, friends and neighbours adjust their ‘treats’ accordingly or are unafraid to ask me what food works for me – or if I’m willing to bring my own food.
- I ask questions – if I go trick or treating as a bit of fun – and certainly when I was younger – I would ask about the food or items they are handing out in a gentle and non-confrontational way and politely refuse if I knew an item was unsuitable. It was not up to a householder to manage my allergies, it’s up to me.
- I always read the labels – and I still do this every day. This is really important if you are trick or treating. It’s usually dark, a neighbour may not know what’s in the items they are giving out so you have to go through the items in some detail when you get home.
- I try to raise awareness in a gentle manner – if I have to refuse a ‘treat’ I’ll often explain why which educates people around allergies and intolerances, which are on the rise anyway. It’s surprising how many people in a community have to watch their diet because of some type of issue around certain foods or ingredients. I’ve noticed, for example, that some homeowners now offer fruit or even second hand books instead of a traditional sugary treat.
- Finally I’m prepared. I always carry a hand sanitizer and my Epipen just in case there’s any cross contamination risk. I also carry cold water too which can bring any allergic reaction down.
One campaign I’m supporting this year is The Teal Pumpkin Project designed to help people like me and to raise awareness – allowing children with allergies to enjoy Halloween just like anyone else. The project actually began in 2014 and has been growing in popularity each year.
Putting a teal pumpkin outside your home denotes a ‘safe’ place for those who suffer from food allergies where the ‘treats’ on offer are non-food – they might be glow sticks, stickers or pocket money toys of some kind.
What colour will your pumpkin be on October 31 2018?